After overtime losses and missed chances, flurries of shots and little to show for it, 10 hard-fought games and a season’s worth of frustration, the Michigan men’s soccer team finally has its first win.
The Wolverines (0-4 Big Ten, 1-6-3 overall) defeated Detroit on a rainy Wednesday night, 2-0, to conquer their first win since Halloween last year.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “I think we’ve dominated the roll of the ball (this season), dominated the good chances in the game, dominated possession in quite a few games. We’re obviously pleased with the performance, pleased that we scored some goals, pleased that we got a shutout and still continue the same mantra: one game at a time.”
The game started off as many have this season, with Michigan heavily controlling possession but lacking the creativity to finish in the final third. They came into the game having outshot nine of their 10 opponents, but tied for 184th nationally in scoring offense, averaging just .67 goals per game.
As the first half progressed, Michigan began pushing the tempo and creating more chances, though it faced the proposition of heading to the locker room without a goal for the ninth time this season.
But with two minutes until halftime, sophomore forward Francis Atuahene changed that misfortune when he rose above his defender and headed the ball into the right corner. The sense of relief from players and fans alike was palpable.
The goal gave Michigan a lead, but it meant more for the team mentally, given the offensive struggles and bad breaks that have defined the season to date.
“Goals change games,” said Daley.
Added sophomore midfielder Robbie Mertz: “It did feel different coming into half with a one-goal lead. It was definitely a different mentality.”
With a newfound energy, Michigan maintained — even increased — its possession and intensity in the beginning of the second half. In the 49th minute, a beautiful cross-field through ball by sophomore defender Peter Brown landed at the feet of senior defender Rylee Woods. Woods darted past the right back and had his shot deflected toward the feet of Mertz, who made no mistake in adding a second goal to put the game out of reach.
The consistently stout defense helped the Wolverines cruise from there toward a clean sheet and a much-needed 2-0 victory.
Michigan will now try to earn its second win of the season on Sunday, when it hosts Penn State. And despite the adversity that has plagued the Wolverines for much of the season, Daley remains optimistic about the talent on the team.
“We’re certainly exciting, with some of the young guys — with (freshman forward) Jack Hallahan, Robbie Mertz, Francis Atuahene, (sophomore midfielder) Ivo Cerda,” Daley said. “They’re excellent, young, exciting players who are finding their way. And we still have half a season to go.”